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Salute to Tourism Celebrates 20 Years of Growth

The tourism industry in St. Joseph has grown from $43 million to $158 million in the 20 years since the enactment of a 1/10 of one cent tourism sales tax in 1993.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Though St. Joseph has a long and storied history, it's really just in the last 20 years leaders have been letting others know about it.

"It became an effort to actually go and market St. Joseph outside of St. Joseph and bring people in," said Marci Bennett, Executive Director of the St. Joseph Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

In 1993, Buchanan County decided to invest in and promote its tourism with a 1/10 of a cent sales tax.

"Nothing has been done without a whole lot of support from the community, volunteers, people who bring events to St. Joseph," Bennett said.

That investment paid off to the tune of a $158 million industry last year. That's almost four times what it was 20 years ago when the tax began. That growth was part of a Salute to Tourism celebration Monday night at the Stoney Creek Inn.

"We have great partners," said Beth Conway with the St. Joseph CVB. "We have a Visitor Industry Partnership of hotels, lodging, B&Bs, attractions, front-line workers and gas stations, anyone who wants to be involved in tourism."

Civic leaders agree the city's museums are one of its best features. They say they also serve as an entry point to a wealth of other local attractions.

"And then they'll ask me, 'are there bed and breakfasts?'" said Kathy Reno with the St. Joseph Museums. "'Where should I stay? What's a good restaurant for me to choose? We are a good starting point and we can direct them to other places.'"

St. Joseph's unique architecture is becoming more of a drawing card.

"That's what I constantly hear, we don't have this at home," Reno said. "That is becoming even more and more of a draw as time goes on."

In the last four years, it's been the Kansas City Chiefs training camp that's become a local tourism jewel. It was especially evident this past summer.

"The draw of the new coach, new players and the new regime, It's only been good for St. Joseph, for tourism here," said Brett Esely, Associate Athletic Director for External Relations for Missouri Western State University.

Leaders agree Chiefs camp is just one of many examples locally when people have the vision and commitment to make things happen.

"When you come together as a community that truly believes tourism can work to generate economic impact to your community, it happens," Bennett said.

The list of awards recipients at the Salute to Tourism included:

Trailblazer Award: Cindy Daffron
Way to Go Award: Mount Mora Cemetery, Missouri Western State University Athletics
20 Year Award: InterServ Wesley Weightlifting, Missouri Air National Guard, Special Olympics
Hall of Fame Award: Bill McKinney, Clyde Weeks
                                                           


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